Pharmacies, suppliers sell out of masks amid coronavirus concerns

McFARLAND (WKOW) -- Fears over the Novel coronavirus, especially aftera case has been confirmed in Wisconsin, have sent protective face masks flying off store shelves.

Big chains like Target, CVS and even places like The Home Depot have either run out entirely or are rationing what they have left.

Pharmacies across Madison and Wisconsin are out too, and their suppliers aren't sure when new masks will be back in stock.

Tony Peterangelo at Forward Pharmacy in McFarland is one of the few places that has any masks left at all.

"Luckily, we stocked up here," he said.

He has a small stack behind the counter, but that's it -- and he says that's all there will be for a while.

"Nothing. Not single packs, small multipacks, nothing's available," Peterangelo said.

When he first heard the news about an outbreak in China, Peterangelo said he'd remembered a similar outbreak a few years ago.

"I remember the SARS virus and people wanting the masks despite there not being a heavy influence here," he said.

Peterangelo ran out of masks quickly then, so he decided to act quickly.

But with all the fuss about the masks -- do they actually help?

"Considering how low the infection rate here is, I don't know," he said. "Unless you know someone, I'm not sure that mask is really necessary."

The CDC agrees.

"We do not think that the American public should be going out, buying masks," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We don't think that normal U.S. citizens going about their daily lives in the U.S. right now are at risk."

Doctors at UW argue it doesn't hurt to wear a mask.

"So the face mask, I think we're getting some mixed ideas about whether that's helpful or not," Dr. Nasia Safdar, Medical Director of Infection Control at UW Health said. "It is recommended that people do that. And, so there's not a downside to it. So I do suggest that they do."

There are four Forward Pharmacies in our area, and Peterangelo says he's been trying to share the remaining masks with the other locations.

He says the national suppliers have run out because of all the demand on the coasts -- particularly the west coast, where travel to China is more frequent.

More at WKOW 27 News

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